In a scene ready-made for Hollywood, Blake coach Rob Horn was standing on the sideline with nine seconds left in a tie game, eager to draw up what he prayed would be the final play.
He needed just one vital piece of information before mapping it all out.
“I said, ‘Who wants the ball?’ ” Horn said. “Jack raised his hand.”
Jack would be Jack Markusen.
Yes, THE Jack Markusen.
A senior who might very well be the most decorated athlete in Blake history, Markusen has won four state titles, and counting, in three sports – swimming, soccer and lacrosse.
Pressure situations? They are as routine to Markusen as barking dogs to a postman.
“Yeah, I volunteered,” Markusen said about playing the lead role in the final act of one of the most anticipated games in state boys’ lacrosse history. “I was feeling good.”
And so it was that Markusen found himself catching the ball, then going one-on-one with a Benilde-St. Margaret’s defenseman, then running alone toward the Red Knights’ goal, then unleashing a wicked shot, then celebrating wildly with jubuliant teammates as half of a packed football stadium roared with delight.
Markusen’s wining goal came with 2.6 seconds remaining and propelled No. 1-ranked Blake past No. 2 Benilde-St. Margaret’s 11-10 in a matchup of unbeatens on Thursday, May 20, at Blake’s picturesque hilltop campus.
“This game was pretty exciting,” said Markusen, who also scored a buzzer-beating goal to end the first half. “To win on your home field against a great team like Benilde is a great feeling.”
The game had been discussed and dissected since the beginning of the season, with the buildup gradually reaching a fever pitch as the Bears (12-0) and Red Knights (11-1) established themselves as the state’s dominant teams. Amazingly, the play on the field trumped all the hype, as it offered every element of drama imaginable, most notably a touch of controversy.
With the clock showing well under a minute and Blake in the process of clearing the ball out of its zone, Horn signaled for a time out. By the time the officials blew their whistles to stop the clock, Blake had advanced the ball into the Red Knights’ zone and the scoreboard showed two-tenths of a second remaining.
It was clear more time would be added, allowing the Bears to run a final play. The only question was how much. The officials eventually ruled that the clock be set at 9 seconds, a decision that even Horn wasn’t sure about.
Certainly Benilde-St. Margaret’s coach Colin Mulcahy disagreed.
“I think there should have been 5 seconds left,” Mulcahy said. “But you know, it’s not my call. I truly think that there should have been less time than what was on the clock, but that’s how it happened.
“They beat us. They are a good team.”
Horn said he would have understood if the Bears had been forced to start their possession from their own end.
“It maybe should have been on the other side of the field,” he said. “That’s what I called for. But, you know, they gave us the ball where we got it. That’s part of the game, I guess.”
Emotions over the timeclock ruling might have been much different if not for an all but certain rematch between the teams in the playoffs. The Bears and Red Knights are prohibitive favorites to reach the Section 5 title game.
“We are going to see them again, we know it, they know it,” Horn said. “We just added more fuel to the rivalry.”
Count Ryan Butts, who scored four goals for Benilde-St. Margaret’s as high-scoring teammate Bailey Dodds (two goals) battled with Bears shutdown defenseman Ben Bennett for most of the game, among those eager for Round 2.
“I’m excited, it is going to be a good one,” Butts said. “It will be like this, but even a better atmosphere than it was today.”
As for Markusen, you just know he'll be raising his hand again should the next meeting between the Bears and Red Knights play out in similar, spectacular fashion.
"Jack Markusen thrives in pressure situations," Horn said. "He wanted the ball at that time."
He got it, and Blake got the win.
Statewide bragging rights belong to the Bears.
Until they meet again.
MN Lax Hub Managing Editor
Phone: 612-379-1030 (ext. 126)
1. Jack Markusen, Blake
Markusen, a senior midfielder (pictured below), volunteered to be the Bears' go-to guy as they drew up a play during a timeout in the waning seconds of regulation, then cooly delivered the winning goal with 2.6 seconds left. It was Markusen's second buzzer beater of the game, with his first coming on an end-to-end sprint that resulted in a goal with 4.8 seconds left in the first half and tied the score at 5.
2. George Ordway, Blake
The Bears' junior attackman overcame some heavy-duty harrassment early from Benilde-St. Margaret's defenseman Jack Clark to score three goals and notch an assist.
3. Ryan Butts, Benilde-SM
Time and time again, Butts proved he can finish as well as any player in the state, scoring four times against one of the best goaltenders around in the Bears' Lowell Fluke.
Back and forth
Benilde-St. Margaret's scored the game's first goal on its first shot, by Christian Horn, 53 seconds into the opening quarter. The score was then tied at 1, 4, 5, 9 and 10 before Blake's Jack Markusen scored the winner with 2.6 seconds remaining. Other than the final score, Blake led only once, when David Tearse's close-range shot trickled in to put the Bears ahead 10-9 with 4:43 remaining. "It was a great game," Blake defenseman Ben Bennett said. "Close the entire time. It was a lot of fun."
Strength vs. strength
Benilde-St. Margaret's senior attackman Bailey Dodds, the runaway state leader in goals (62) and points (81) was matched up against Blake's Bennett, generally considered to be among the state's top handful of defensemen, most of the game. Dodds finished with two goals, his lowest single-game output of the season. With his room to operate clearly limited, Dodds adapted by becoming more of a playmaker and less of a finisher. Teammate Ryan Butts, who finished with a game-high four goals, was the biggest beneficiary in the change in roles. Dodds, meanwhile, matched a season high with three assists. "Bailey Dodds, he's a great player," Bennett said. "He's an animal out there. He was tough to play all night. It was a great matchup."
Isolation plays click for Blake
Three of Blake's final four goals, including Markusen's game-winner, were scored in similar fashion as the Bears started to consistently beat the right side of the Red Knights' defense with one-on-one rushes to the goal. Markusen said Blake's final play was drawn up to isolate him on the right side yet again, with the rest of the Bears positioned on the left half of the field. "(Blake coach Rob Horn) took all the other five players and stacked them to the left of the goal," Markusen said. "He told me my first goal was just to go right to the net and try to get a shot off. Get a low shot off. My adrenalin just took me right to the goal."
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